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Recreation district goes down

EMS measures win voters’ approval

— Despite an overwhelming voter rejection of a proposed Methow Valley Recreation District in last week’s special election, supporters haven’t given up.

As of Friday, about 78 percent of those who voted – 1,839 people – were rejecting the proposal.

“The election results are disappointing, but understandable,” said Julie Muyllaert, one of the candidates for a board that would have managed the recreation district if it had been approved. “I heard from a lot of people that they support the idea of funding recreation in the Methow Valley, but were uncomfortable with the district structure prescribed by the specific state law and that they would have felt more comfortable voting for a specific plan with a budget.

“Overall, I believe that the proposal initiated a good community conversation and I anticipate seeing alternative solutions in the months and years to come.”

Muyllaert said she hasn’t heard if the Friends of the Recreation District, which endorsed her and four other candidates for the five-member board, are making new plans.

Resident Fred Wert, who helped organize the recreation district proposal, did not return Chronicle requests for comment.

“I can’t imagine the supporters actually thought it had a Chinaman’s chance of winning,” said Twisp resident Bill White, a longtime member of the Okanogan County Parks and Recreation Board. “I actually think this might have come close or else maybe even (passed) if it only had the Twisp pool and the ice rink on the chalkboard.

“Everybody sees how beneficial the Twisp pool is. It is cram-packed all summer long and has good parking and adjoins the Twisp park. The ice rink is starting to get a lot of use too by the local kids.”

White said of the residents he spoke with, most of them had a problem with paying more taxes. As a junior taxing district, the Methow Valley Recreation District would have been able to collect up to 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation starting next year.

The other problem, he said, was that the recreation district would have had eminent domain authority, or the power to condemn property.

Friends of the Recreation District has noted that it would be unlikely the district would go to such measures to provide recreation opportunities.

“It is anticipated that the projects and programs will be conducted by agencies and organizations, not directly by the recreation district itself,” according to methowrecreation

district.org. “If an applicant agency has the authority to condemn property that is their choice, although it is not common, especially for recreation facilities.”

Meanwhile, Okanogan County commissioners planned to pass new resolutions this week to expand the focus of the county Parks and Recreation Board and create a new Fair Advisory Committee.

The county will have to remove the current Parks and Recreation Board members, but are inviting them to re-apply to serve either on that board or on the fair committee.

White previously told The Chronicle he would likely throw his name in for the fair committee.

Commissioner Sheilah Kennedy said the county is still welcoming letters of interest from those who wish to volunteer for either board.

As of last Thursday, no letters had been submitted, she said.

“I haven’t given much thought to serving on a county-wide recreation board or commission, and I haven’t heard from any of the other candidates that they are thinking of applying to serve in that capacity,” Muyllaert said. “It will be interesting to see what the county proposes and their ideas for funding recreation given budget constraints.”

County commissioners decided last month to expand the Parks and Recreation Board to serve the entire county and fulfill more needs, such as weed removal and maintenance of trails and the fairgrounds.

Currently, the board’s primary responsibility is organizing the Okanogan County Fair and maintaining the fairgrounds.

Voters last week were also asked to select five at-large commissioners for the Methow Valley Recreation District to serve in case the proposition passed.

The frontrunners as of Friday were Don Fitzpatrick for Position 1, Christine Holm for Position 2, Camden Shaw for Position 3, Bart Bradshaw for Position 4 and Paula Stokes for Position 5.

Elsewhere in the county, residents of the Brewster and Pateros areas are voting to continue the Douglas Okanogan County Fire District 15 emergency services levy for another six years, as are rural voters.

The requested amount is the same, 47 cents per $1,000.

The Bridgeport School District didn’t have the support needed for its $3.9 million, 20-year bond issue to rebuild a portion of the elementary school and make some other improvements.

Voters in both counties are turning down the measure, 53-47 percent. It needed 60 percent to pass.

In Ferry County, rural residents of emergency services District No. 1 are passing a medical care and ambulance services levy, 83 percent to 17 percent.

Republic voters are approving a city-led version of the same levy, 73 percent to 27 percent.

The levy would cost 47 cents per $1,000 of assessed value over a six-year period.

A three-year general fund levy of $18,325 for the Keller School District is also passing, about 73 percent to 27 percent. Ninety-six votes had been cast as of Tuesday.

If approved, the levy, estimated at $1 per $1,000, would be collected starting next year.

“I do want to thank the voters for supporting the education of the children,” Superintendent Gary Greene said.

Election results will be certified for all three counties May 6.

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